The damaged drilling rig Transocean Winner will be transported to a Turkish scrapping yard by heavy lift vessel, the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement Friday.
"Although contracts are still to be finalised, planning is under way for the rig, which is currently in Broad Bay in the Isle of Lewis, to be loaded on to a semi-submersible heavy lift vessel for its journey," the agency said.
No date has yet been set, but once authorities have more details they will hold a public meeting to explain the plan to local residents.
The rig has a transit displacement of roughly 17,000 tonnes, well within the capacity of many float-on/float-off semi-submersible heavy lift ships.
For now, the rig sits at anchor awaiting its final disposal. Its condition is stable.
Divers are still working to recover some of the debris from the seabed at the site of the grounding near Carloway, and the agency warned the public that uncharted hazards may remain off of Dalmore Beach. Citizens have also been asked to remain vigilant when walking the beach in case anything may have washed up.
The government's lead representative for the salvage and disposal effort, Hugh Shaw, told the BBC that loading out the rig on a heavy lift ship would require good weather. "This is probably the wrong time of the year to be doing this operation, but we have to deal with the cards we have been given," he said.
Local government representatives had asked Transocean to consider dismantling the rig on the Isle of Lewis as a way to benefit the economy – similar to the local dismantling process for the wreck of the Costa Concordia. “We would be very happy to work with Transocean, Smit Salvage and other relevant key stakeholders to ensure that direct and indirect benefits are, as much as possible, retained in the islands,” wrote Councilor Angus Campbell of the Western Isles Council.
The Transocean Winner went aground on a headland near Carloway on August 8. The rig was in transit bound for Malta, towed by the anchor handling tug Alp Forward, and the tug lost the tow in severe weather. The Alp Forward was unable to reestablish a connection and high winds blew the Winner aground.
The rig lost 12,000 gallons of fuel in the grounding, but there has been no sign of pollution and authorities believe that the petroleum product evaporated.
A team from Smit Salvage and Transocean refloated the rig on August 22 and two tugs towed it around the island to safe harbor in Broad Bay.